This week I decided to write about the rising number of depression and anxiety cases being diagnosed in the last several years. My intention was to write about adults and depression.
However, the article I found was about the rising rate in children.
I think that children being diagnosed with depression and anxiety is a disturbing commentary on the state of our mental health in this country.
The last 50 to 70 years have produced children, adolescents, and young adults (in high school and college) that are diagnosed with depression and anxiety. The reasons have been attributed to change in goals and the decrease in play for children.
According to this study, children and adolescents feel like they have less control over their lives than all previous generations. The shift has been attributed to a move from intrinsic goals to extrinsic goals.
Intrinsic goals are related to personal development creating a meaningful purpose for their life. Extrinsic goals are more focused on materialistic achievements like what others think or material reward. The society as a whole has been moving in this direction and children’s new values are reflecting this.
The ability for children to explore their environment and conduct free play without adult supervision supports their ability to solve their own problems. Through play, children learn problem-solving skills, high level reasoning, and creative thought for many different activities.
This allows them to begin developing a sense of control over their lives. They also develop physical, intellectual, emotional social and ethical capacities. When we take away our children’s ability to play, even if we think it is protecting them, we are taking away their ability to exert control over their lives.
Play is important for children to develop a sense of self and sense of control in the world. Not only do they need to play, they need to do it in an unstructured, safe but unsupervised, manner.
Allowing children to play and develop their reasoning and problem-solving skills will build their confidence and intrinsic goals.